BIRMINGHAM — An Alabama teen who claims she was raped after a school worker tried to use her as bait to catch an alleged sexual predator should be forced to publicly reveal her name to pursue a lawsuit, an Alabama school system argued in court.
Madison County schools filed documents with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week opposing anonymity for a now-19-year-old woman who said she was raped at school at age 14 during a scheme hatched by a teacher’s aide to catch another student accused of improper sexual advances.
A lawyer for the alleged victim called the system’s position unusual since victims of sexual assaults often are allowed to use only their initials or a pseudonym like “Jane Doe” in civil lawsuits.
“We were rather surprised by it,” said Teri Mastando, a Huntsville attorney for the young woman and her father.
School board attorney Clay Carr said requiring the one-time student to use her name would be consistent with past rulings by the 11th Circuit.
The school system filed a document Monday arguing the former student is no longer a juvenile and her desire for anonymity isn’t enough to keep her name out of the case if she becomes a plaintiff.
“Although she may prefer to proceed in her own behalf under a fictitious name, there is no evidence that any adverse consequence to (the teen) might result from continuing the litigation under her own real name,” the school board argued in a court document.
The Associated Press has a policy against identifying victims of alleged sexual assaults and is not identifying the woman.
The school board’s position came in response to a request by the ex-student to be included in a lawsuit filed by her father, who filed the lawsuit on her behalf while she was still underage.
Evidence shows a teacher’s aide asked the then-14-year-old girl to go into a bathroom at Sparkman Middle School so a 16-year-old eighth-grader with a history of sexual harassment could be caught trying to have sex with her and disciplined.
The plan backfired and the girl says she was sexually assaulted in a bathroom stall.
The teacher’s aide resigned and no charges were filed against the male student because the girl initially said she was not threatened or forced to have sex.
A federal judge in 2013 dismissed a lawsuit filed by the young woman’s father, ruling school officials didn’t have sufficient reason to suspect the male student could be a threat.
The Obama administration and multiple private organizations are now asking the 11th Circuit to overturn a lower court’s decision that dismissed the federal lawsuit filed by the girl’s father against the Madison County School Board, four school workers and the male student who allegedly assaulted the girl.
The appeals court has said it would hear oral arguments in the case, but no date is set.
Mastando said the young woman now wants to be included as a plaintiff in the case since she is no longer a minor.
“It’s a pretty routine idea that now that she is an adult she should be able to handle her own affairs and that she should be able to remain anonymous because of her age when this happened,” she said.
School officials contend the young woman doesn’t meet court standards for being allowed to pursue a lawsuit anonymously.